Sunday, 7 October 2018

Regaining Life with Ups and Downs

An incredibly powerful woman who ended up in a coma after a severe car accident writes the following story. Upon waking from the coma, she had forgotten everything and had to fight very hard to build up her life again. This meant the start of a second, consecutive life. She beautifully describes this in a Dutch book she wrote ’Herwonnen Leven (Life Regained)’.

“I played a Johannes Opus 230 organ. I played it pretty well, until the moment I ended up in a coma due to a severe car accident. When I slowly woke, I did not realise a thing, did not speak the language which the people around me spoke, did not even know who I was, and experienced everything around me as weird.

‘In the first half year, I am confronted with something that once was my passion, playing the classical organ. When I am home alone and want to play an easy melody on the instrument decorated with black and white keys, it scares me. Something stops me from sitting on the organ bench. When I walk past the organ, I stop and force myself to take place on the bench. The confrontation is too big for me. I decide not to yield to the temptation. Sometimes the temptation takes over me and I take a seat. The wooden bench shines because of the beeswax and feels smooth. I try to sit in the right posture and tap some keys. Then I realise, what formerly was a second nature to me, was totally lost. – I lost control – I raise my right hand to place it on top of the keys, and try to do the same with my left hand. This seems to be even harder. Shortly after, I decide to let it be. I now realise, my life ‘before and after’ are miles away from each other. As a result, I decided to write a musician. I asked him to write me a music score for a wooden Tenor flute, which I have stored in a box somewhere.’
(A translation by me of: Bos, Paul (2016) Herwonnen Leven. The Netherlands: Boekenluik)

Now, years later, the Tenor flute made place for the transverse flute. I (temporarily) considered this my life’s project. I felt ‘ingenious’ because of this! For years and to this day, I spend a lot of time on my lessons and love to make music as well. This definitely improved my language development!

I like listening to music a lot, but I prefer making music as it has a bigger positive effect. There are two big benefits. Making music also means, listening to your own music. It reduces chronical stress by lowering the concentration of the primary stress hormone Cortisol. Music helps me to connect to my own emotions. Furthermore, music raises the released amount of the neurotransmitter Dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel comfortable and happy. It is released by the reward system in the brain, which is also active during biologically essential processes like sexuality and eating. Quite magnificent, isn’t it?

After a long fight against change and lost, I return in the world of music. It is an expectation game. The teaching of new skills is exhaustive, both mentally and physically. During my repetitions, I like to go out for a walk as well, preferably with a strong headwind. When I am moving, I meditate. When I play the flute, I am moving too. After all, I am resetting my framework. To know the happiness of life by new abilities, a true compensation!

To walk the road for a second time, while you do not know the way anymore and nobody seems to be able to guide you, has been a long road in which music played a big role. Sometimes in minor key, a sad mood. Alternated by a major key, with lively tones.

Music gives rise to emotions. It helps to express and amplify feelings, both to relax and gain energy. Music is a means of communication, a translator and interpreter of emotions, that connects people with each other.

Maybe this is, in essence, The Power of Music. “

Monday, 24 September 2018

The Long and Tough Road

This is the impressive experience of a former ICU patient and professional violinist who can remember some things from her hospital stay. She also had to endure the horrible effects after this time, but with carrying these experiences she had to start life all over again.
Music played a big role during her stay at the ICU. She can remember the beautiful 'Intermezzi' by 'Brahms', her favourite music.
This music helped her tremendously in this period, and, in the days after, the playing the violin was of great help too. Till this day this is her music.

'Today is the day I woke up.
Time seems to be of inferior value. I don't know where I am.
I am laying in bed and several people seem to be talking to me.

After a while I realize I'm in a hospital ward. And even much later I realize I'm laying on the ICU.

I hear women talking to me. I recognize these voices very well. I also hear the voice of my brother. He promises me that we would go to the Asterix and Obelix park together. Now it's 2018, we still have to make that trip.

A hospitalization in the ICU causes a big storm in your head. Initially you return to the order of the day. Simply go on where you left. But after a few years of hard work, you realize something's going wrong.

You don't get why you can't understand anything from your daily life. It's incomprehensible. Your cognitive understanding is floating away, litterally.

You don't understand what you're thinking.

And then you're back in your daily work-life. But you can't get to work anymore.

Afterwards you're in some kind of vacuum. And then you don't know a thing.

Everyone is bleating at you, pushing and pulling you. Nothing makes a difference. Then you've got to initiate thinking about what to make of your life.
You can't think of any way how to do it.
After years and a lot of experiences richer, a new road begins.

The road is extremely long.
It takes years.
Making new friends.
Trying to make new contacts.
Not approaching old contacts.
Gathering new people around yourself.
Avoiding people who want to solely benefit from your new ideas.

You actually become a new person.

I want to maintain many of my character traits and give them new life.
That will give me new energy.

Back in the days these traits were incomplete to me. They are not anymore.
Now, I reappreciate these traits. I value them more than before.

Better late than never.'

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Great Comments

Dear readers,

Thank you all for reading my personal experience about music in the ICU! The blog has been viewed a lot.
I'm happy with all comments that I received from you. It would be lovely to receive more comments. If you know someone with experience with this matter, please let me know. It would also be nice if a larger group of people is reached. You can help realising that by sharing the blog.

Many comments confirm that music has a positive effect on patients and their family/friends in the ICU. Music helped a 15 year old female patient with cerebral palsy in the weaning process! And old-fashion music (1930-1950) helped an old woman during her end-of-life care. 
The ICU can get very busy. The soothing effect of music de-stresses the hard working staff in their lovely care for the critically ill patients. Not only in the ICU, but in other hospital wards music is reported to be of great help as well.
One comment said that long stay ICU patients benefit from the music a lot. It helps prevent delirium in these patients. A few hours after receiving this comment, an article was shared about a study to the effect of music on the conditions that cause delirium. This study confirmed the comment!

It is important to share that music not only triggers a positive response. Another comment that was received told a story about a man who was in an induced coma due to a severe illness. His partner was allowed to play his favourite music. He did react on the music, but it was a negative response. It made him very restless. Also, the voice from his partner made him restless. She had to be quiet and the music had to be turned off. I think it is possible that he wanted to sing along with the music or talk to his partner, but could not do that because of the induced coma. That could have made him restless.
It’s obvious that sound (music and the voice from a loved one) is still being processed and triggers a response. In the last case, this wasn’t a desirable response, though. Then it is very important that staff can anticipate on the effect.

Thank you for reading,

Bas Meuter

Friday, 3 August 2018

Share Your Story!

Dear readers!

In this blog, I want to gather as many special and beautiful stories about the impact of music in healthcare as possible! That's why I'm asking all of you:

If you, your family or friends have a special experience showing the impact of music in healthcare, could you please contact me (Bas)?

Mailing adress:

Thanks a lot in advance, and I hope to get many responds, so that we can make the special power of music in healthcare obvious for everyone!

Kind regards,

My Experience

Dear readers,

The special stories of people with a remarkable experience of music in healthcare will be shared in this blog. This could be experiences from hospital staff, (ex-)patients or family.

My drive to start this blog comes from my own experience:
In 2010 I was in a severe traumatic accident. I was hit by a car when I was riding my bicycle and landed on the street 50 feet further. In comatose condition I was transported to the hospital where I laid in a coma for a week. During my stay on the ICU my family was allowed to play some of my favourite music as it is considered to positively stimulate the brain processes, also in comatose patients.
This helped me a lot. Even before I was answering simple questions of the nurses, I was singing along with music from James Taylor and John Mayer! I did also like the classical piano music from the movie 'Amélie' (which I learned how to play on the guitar as well) and it was played many times. This amazed the nurses as most boys in the age of 16 listen to a whole different music genre. 😉

Also during my rehabilitation, after staying in the hospital for one and a half months, music played a key role in my recovery. From the age of 8 I've been playing classical acoustic guitar and I was pretty well skilled before the accident. During my rehabilitation I was allowed to finally go home during the weekends.
I do remember this pretty well, one weekend when I was home I picked up my guitar and tried to play again. I wasn't able to hit even one string, my hand-eye coordination was totally gone.
During a visit from my guitar teacher she offered me to come in the weekends to help me learn to play the guitar once more. So early in my rehabilitation I was practicing how to play the guitar, and slowly my coordination came back and, luckily, after roughly a year I was plucking the strings like I did before!

Thanks to playing the guitar which makes the left and right brain work together, and the best family and friends I've been fully recovered! Now, 8 years after the accident, I'm busy with my master's degree in Technical Medicine (Medical Sensing and Stimulation) at the University of Twente. My aim for the future is to do studies to understand the exact mechanism of what music does to the brain, so that we can offer the perfect music for every patient!

Now I'm participating in a project to bring live music to the ICU in the Netherlands, 'MuzIC'. We hope that in a few years all ICU's will welcome the great musicians to play for their patients. Then not only the patient, but also family, friends and the ICU staff will benefit from the soothing effect of the live music!

Thanks for reading,